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Google staff walk out over sexual harassment, inequality and racism claims

Google staff around the world are walking out of their offices on Thursday in protest against the company's treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.

The protest, billed "Walkout For Real Change", comes a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin.

The report said Mr Rubin received a $90 million (£70m) severance package in 2014, even though Google concluded sexual misconduct allegations again him were credible.

Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment. Credit: PA
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices. Credit: PA
The Google offices in Granary Square, London where some members of staff staged a walkout as a part of a protest over the company's treatment of women. Credit: PA

Mr Rubin denied the allegations and said the article was inaccurate.

The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct of other executives and the Google walk out is the latest backlash against alleged male exploitation of women in business, entertainment and politics.

Those walking out will leave flyers on their desks saying they are "walking out in solidarity with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that's not working for everyone".

Staff around the world are expected to leave their offices at 11.10 am local time, demanding an end to pay inequality, more accountability in cases of harassment and better representation for workers.

Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Credit: PA
Google London joined the walkout on Thursday morning. Credit: Google Walkout For Real Change/Twitter
Staff in Singapore staged a walk out at 11am local time. Credit: Google Walkout For Real Change/Twitter

The five demands of those organising the walkout are:

  • An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.
  • A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
  • A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
  • A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  • Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. Appoint an Employee Rep to the Board.

Hundreds of employees in Dublin, Zurich, Singapore and Tokyo have already been pictured leaving their offices en masse, listening to speeches and "sharing stories about harassment, microaggressions, inefficient process, broken culture", according to one employee.

Danila Sinopalnikov shared a picture of the Google walkout in Zurich on social media, where hundreds have gathered.

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Critics say the male-dominated make-up of many Silicon Valley companies fosters unsavory behavior.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologised for the company's "past actions" in an email sent to employees on Tuesday.

Mr Pichai wrote: "I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel.

"I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. And, yes, here at Google, too."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologised to employees. Credit: AP

The email did not mention the reported incidents, but Mr Pichai did not dispute details of the New York Times story.

In an email last week, Mr Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google's executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Mr Rubin's departure four years ago.

Among other things, they disclosed Google had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for "sexual harassment" in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.

But Thursday's workout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet Inc. remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet's own edict urging all employees to "do the right thing".

A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the "Me Too" hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct.

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"Why do they think it's OK to reward perpetrators & further violate victims?" asked Rep. Jackie Speier, who represents an affluent district where many of Google's employees live.

Richard DeVaul, a director at a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, resigned from the company on Tuesday after he was accused of sexually harassing a female job applicant.